A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
man is well-built, pleasant-faced, and aristocratic-looking. He wears
his hair in long raven locks down to his shoulders. His companion is
younger, slighter in build, But equally pleasant-looking. He, too,
affects the abnormally long hair of his type. He is the first to speak,
for he greets me by name, and, to my surprise, prostrates himself
upon the ground.
I do not know him and tell him so.
He replies smilingly that he knows all about me and that he
knows my Master too. Then he gives me his own name and I learn
that he comes from the Malabar coast of South-West India. His
companion, he tells me, hails from Gorakhpur in the North, the
United Provinces, to be precise. The latter is a guru, that is, a
spiritual teacher, of some influence in his own territory. The speaker
himself is a kind of unattached pupil.
All this information is elicited only after repeated questioning on
my part. Then the elder man approaches nearer, touches me, and
produces a large mango-like fruit, whose name I forget, but which I
know to be costly. He offers it smilingly, but says not a word. There-
upon his companion explains that the man is "keeping silent" and
has not spoken for twelve years. 4
I thank him but refuse, saying he will need all the food he can
get in this lonely region.
"Oh no!" exclaims the vocal one, "we have some coolies
following us with all our needful provisions, for we are going on
pilgrimage to Gangotri."
But I know well the hardships involved in the journey and refuse
to accept the fruit,, declaring frankly-, that I should be unable to
forgive myself if I deprived them of the smallest quantity of much-
Then both men become somewhat excited and exert their utmost
pressure to make me accept. The younger one declares that the fruit
is their special sacrificial offering to a fellow Yogi, as dictated by
custom, and that they would feel much hurt if I still refused it. As I
see that they will really be hurt, I accept it reluctantly but on
condition that it is straightway cut up and shared among us all
While the servant is peeling and cutting the fruit, I protest half-
jokingly &at they have made a mistake, and that I am not a Yogi as
they can easily see by my clothes.
The guru gravely replies:
"It is not the yellow robe that makes a Yogi; that is nothing;
it is the heart, and you are one of us.'*
"Then this is the first time, perhaps,** I retort jocosely, "that a
Yogi has come into the Himalayan forests wearing a sun helmet and
creased trousers, sat himself down on a waterproof ground-sheet,